Friday, October 12, 2007

Cause of Death . . .

Clearly, I have nothing but sympathy for the husband and six surviving children of Annette High but I have a problem with the way the story of her death has been told.

Here is the headline . . .

"Mum-of-six dies days after gastric bypass she was convinced would 'improve her life'"

Here is the cause of death, three paragraphs below . . .

"She died as a result of heart disease."

NOW - no doubt that being overweight most of her life, as the article implies she was, had put strain on her heart and no doubt that, as the article points out, the surgery itself might have put her body through enough stress to agrivate the heart condition she had PREVIOUSLY DEVELOPED but - is it responsible to imply that gastric bypass killer her?

NO! It would be like if you went to McDonalds and used the drive thru and, as you pulled back on to the street you were blind sided and killed . . . and they said the Big Mac killed you. Okay, maybe not but you see my point.
What WOULD be appropriate is what she said to her husband who begged her not to have the surgery . . .

"I warned her people had died having them, but she said people also died from being overweight."

What killed Annette was her weight and her heart. She had tried the lap band which worked at first, as it often does but it was no longer as effective and she was gaining weight again (as statistics would show is very common). She decided to take her weight in her own hands and have this surgery. She saw it as a way to extend and protect her life and her health.

Her heart, not gastric bypass, decided otherwise.

Again, no disrespect to Annette's memory or the remorse of her family and friends - I'm sure that I would be looking for any one to blame and any finger to point if my wife was ever taken from me by any circumstance BUT, the journalist who wrote this story should have had better senses to put this story in the appropriate context.

The story does point out that there are risks of death following surgery (I would disagree, based on my readings and research and experience, that 2% of patients die within a month of having the operation but - the University of Washington says it is true so . . . ) and that her heart condition was "possibly" upset by the surgery.

I, like Annette and no doubt many other people who have struggled with their weight and made this agonizing and somewhat scary decision looked at the risks of surgery and the chances of serious complications (including death) associated with it and then I, like Annette, looked at what my life might include without the surgery and the far more serious complications and risks that I would face and the far greater likelihood that my life would be cut short without doing "something."

I can only hope that most would-be patients are confident and emotionally ready enough to make their decision without stories like this - freakish occurences - obstructing or blurring their view of what lies ahead of them.

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